The 1950s phoned…
Sexism is par for the course on Twitter I’m sad to say, but recently I’ve noticed a change in my mentions. I am receiving a lot of references to my personal life, all of which are deeply misogynistic. The language gives it away very easily: I am “shacked up” with my partner, and I am spouting his views. I have also been receiving approaches from people who should know better who want me to act as a conduit between them and John.
Generally my view is that a personal life should remain personal, and to that end I would like to make a few things clear.
When John and I started our relationship in the summer of 2016, I had been a journalist for eight years. In this time, I had won awards for my work both on housing policy and politics. I had worked my way up to Assistant Editor of the Spectator, signed a major book deal before I was 30, written columns for national newspapers and presented Radio 4’s Week in Westminster. The idea that I would need a backbench Labour MP to further my career is ridiculous, but still more ludicrous is the suggestion that finally finding personal happiness after much pain and trauma would necessarily come at the cost of having an intellectual lobotomy. When people suggest that I am somehow spouting my partner’s views, they disregard everything I have worked hard on and am proud of over my career, and frankly haven’t read much of what I’ve written either.
The connotations of “shacked up” are just seedy and unrepresentative of my morals. I am also mystified as to how owning a house, a car, and having a slightly bafflingly wonderful modern family arrangement involving a lot of people who care deeply about each other bringing up young children, can be defined using such terms.
What is particularly mystifying is that all this sexism comes from the Left, who have ended up in a weird religious crusade in which they feel it is perfectly legitimate to abandon the values that they preach when they encounter someone they disagree with. I suspect that much of the unpleasantness I encounter comes from people who are unable to have close relationships with people whose politics are different to theirs. As it happens, I am a swing voter, and while most of my close friends are distinctly put off by politics, my closest friend is a very passionate Corbyn supporter. Because she is one of the people I love and trust the most in the world, I understand why she holds such views too.
But what saddens me still more is the idea that a woman must adopt the views of her male partner because she hasn’t got a real thought in her head. All of my relationships, whether with my younger brothers, my close girlfriends or my partner, help me consider my opinions on politics and my approaches to life. But I am also not a sheet in the wind. Over the past few years I have struggled greatly with my mental health, identity and self-esteem, but I have come out of that knowing that I am me, defined by me, not in relation to other people.
I also have a busy job to do, and quite frankly when I do get time with my partner, I have a number of pressing things I need to discuss with him, like the fact I still haven’t fixed the damage to the car that I caused in the summer by driving into a pillar (in the same minute as I was telling my passenger that I wasn’t great at parking), and whether the cat is getting fat again. I suggest that those who are weirdly more interested in my relationship than I am discover new priorities because I am not talking about it again, and frankly, life really is too short to spend much of it thinking about Isabel Hardman’s domestic arrangements. Or indeed being a sexist.